Given the range of concept cars that featured autonomous technology at the recent CES event, you could be forgiven for thinking that self-drive vehicles were little more than a few years away. While this is a misperception (given that fully-functional vehicles with completely autonomous technology are unlikely to hit the consumer market until 2030 at the earliest), this does not mean that the current market is bereft of innovations or devoid of any progressive technology.
The Dawn of Solar and Hydrogen Power
To support this theory, you need only look at the dual concepts of hydrogen and solar powered vehicles. Both of these concepts have been mooted as the future of the automotive sector and one stage or another, while they have also inspired recent innovations such as hybrid and electric cars. The latter is particularly interesting, as it is considered to be the final step before manufacturers progress to electric vehicles that are powered purely by solar energy and technology.
In this is respect, solar power is more advanced than hydrogen because it has already made an impact in the automotive marketplace. It plays a pivotal role in the manufacturing of new cars, for example, with firms such as Volkswagen owns a SEAR factory that features up to 53,000 solar panel rooftop designs. While solar technology is also used to power certain racing vehicles, however, its application in the consumer market has been restricted to individual projects and prototype cars that can travel a maximum of 500 miles on a single charge.
Such progression is positively brisk when compared to the application of hydrogen technology, meaning that solar power in undoubtedly edging the short-term battle between these two efficient energy sources. Hydrogen powered cars remain a distant if more energy-efficient concept, which utilise fuel cells to convert hydrogen into a source of electricity that can power cars, vans or trucks. Although the barriers to using such technology are significant, Toyota’s Mirai saloon concept model claims to fuse hydrogen with oxygen to provide adequate power and harmless, water-vapour emissions.
The Battle between Hydrogen and Solar Power: Which fuel source will ultimately succeed?
This offers hope for the firms that remain keen on using fuel cells and hydrogen and an automotive energy source, with Honda joining Toyota at the front of this queue. More specifically, it underlines the potential of hydrogen as a fuel source, while the current trends seem to suggest that the battle between hydrogen and solar power will become increasingly close as the years progress.
At present, there is no doubt that solar power is at a more advanced stage of development and easier to implement in modern vehicle designs. It must also overcome significant challenges if it is to become a practical fuel source solution over time, meaning that it momentum may well subside in the coming years. Given the potential of hydrogen and the demand to advance this as a fuel source, it may well win the long-term battle and ultimately put solar power in the shade.